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Bet your bottom dollar

Quarterly Treasure Sale benefits Charlestown in more ways than one

Created date

November 8th, 2017
Shoppers browse items for sale displayed on table tops at the Charlestown Treasure Sale.

All of the proceeds of Charlestown’s quarterly Treasure Sale are donated to various clubs and organizations in the Charlestown community.


Everyone likes a good deal, and Emily Fowler is no exception. When she’s on the hunt for a bargain, Fowler heads over to the Treasure Sale, an on-site flea market run by the residents of Charlestown, the Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md. 

 “I’ve found Barbie dolls for my daughter and puzzles and Orioles stuff for my son. I’ve seen $100 dresses from Lord & Taylor for $30 or $40. I bought an Ann Taylor dress with the tags still on that was originally $98 for just $10,” says Fowler. 

Selling everything from clothing and collectibles to kitchenware and furniture, the Treasure Sale is run by an army of 325 community volunteers. The three-day sale, held four times a year, is similar in many ways to a flea market—with one twist—all of the items for sale come from donations and all of the proceeds are in turn donated to various clubs and organizations in the Charlestown community. In 2016, the Treasure Sale made more than $169,337.

As philanthropy coordinator at Charlestown, Fowler helps coordinate the volunteers and advertise upcoming sales. 

“We post fliers here in the community as well as advertise in the local newspapers and at churches and businesses in the greater community,” says Fowler. 

Donations come in daily and are handled via a hotline staffed by volunteers during regularly scheduled hours. 

“When someone calls to donate, we have volunteers who go and pick up the items. They then take them to one of two sorting rooms on either side of the campus where other volunteers sort, price, and pack the donations,” says Fowler.  

Labor of love

Sara Nixon has been volunteering with the Treasure Sale for three years. She handles many of the managerial tasks required to keep the organization running smoothly and oversees a team of six volunteers who handle the donation hotline. 

“People donate all sorts of things—clothing, collectibles, kitchen utensils and small appliances, linens, toys, luggage, electronics,” says Sara. “I work with the Treasure Sale in some capacity every day. I figure while I’m young and have lots of energy, I might as well do something worthwhile. I love it! But I couldn’t do it without all of the volunteers. They are wonderful!”  

On-campus outlet stores

To help manage the large number of donations they receive, the community features three on-campus outlet stores that are open year-round. The Treasure Chest sells a hodgepodge of personal and household items and small appliances. Women’s clothing, outerwear, and shoes can be found in the Ladies Boutique. And a dedicated furniture store, Treasures Unlimited, carries everything from sofas to dining room sets. 

Charlestown resident Tom Showe has managed the Treasures Unlimited store for nearly two decades.

“I normally sell between $20,000 and $25,000 worth of furniture throughout the year here in the store, and that’s not counting the four Treasure Sales held in the conference center,” says Tom. 

“I’ve been doing this so long that I’m familiar with what things cost,” says Tom. “You learn from experience what people are willing to pay for certain items. For example, a recliner could go for $50 to $65 depending on the brand name and the condition. A three-cushion sofa may go for $90 to $100, and a loveseat maybe $75 to $80. We try not to price things too high; we consider ourselves the cheapest place in town.” 

Due to limited space, Tom is particular about the donations he accepts. 

“We handle good quality stock. I use the philosophy: if I wouldn’t buy, we won’t take it,” says Tom. “Most of the furniture we get is well-built, quality furniture from years ago, compared to some of the stuff you see today. We get people who come in looking for their son or daughter who is going to college or newly married couples who are starting out in a new house or apartment.” 

After a career spent with the space program, Tom says he never imagined he would one day be selling furniture, but the work is so rewarding he can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I’m a person who can’t sit still, so I was determined to get involved with something when I moved to Charlestown,” says Tom. “I probably put in a good 30 hours a week at the store. It keeps me out of trouble. I’ve always been interested in helping others, and the Treasure Sale is a wonderful organization that gives back to the community and helps a lot of people.”